The Allman Brothers reunited during late 1978 and entered the recording studio to produce their first studio album in four years.
The four original members, keyboardist/vocalist Gregg Allman, drummer Jaimoe, lead guitarist/vocalist Dickey Betts, and drummer Butch Trucks had resolved their differences, at least for a while. Bassist Lamar Williams and pianist Chuck Leavel, who had replaced original members Duane Allman and Berry Oakley, were not asked to return. In their place was guitarist Dan Toler and bassist David Goldflies. The addition of Toler meant that the band had returned to the two-guitar line-up of its classic years.
The other important addition, and a return to its early period, was producer Tom Dowd. He produced three of their classic albums and was instrumental in the development of the band’s sound.
What emerged was a very good, if not excellent album. If you want to experience some good music by The Allman Brothers, but are not in the mood for their longer, drawn-out, improvisational material, then Enlightened Rogues is an album for you.
It may have been four years since their last album, but Dickey Betts was still the focal point of the band. He wrote or co-wrote five of the eight tracks, provided the lead guitar work, and shared lead vocal duties with Gregg Allman.
There may not have been any tracks that can be considered essential, but the album is populated with a number of consistently good songs. The best of the lot was a Dickey Betts instrumental. “Pegasus” was a guitarist’s delight as Betts and Toler melded together well, plus the band members each step forward like The Allman Brothers of old.
The best of the other Betts compositions was the rocker, “Crazy Love,” which became a Top 30 hit single for the band. Betts’ slide guitar and vocal drive the melody along.
The most unique song was “Try It One More Time,” which he wrote with bassist Goldflies. Allman and Betts exchange lead vocals throughout the song, which makes it one of the more unusual ones in its catalogue.
Betts ventures into blues territory with “Can’t Take It With You,” which gives both drummers a chance to shine.
Two blues tunes are given modern interpretations. B.B. King’s “Blind Love” features a bluesy vocal by Gregg Allman and driving guitars by Betts and Toler. “Need Your Love So Bad” is a competent cover of Mertis John’s old blues tune, first recorded by his brother Little Willie John.
The only Gregg Allman composition was “Just Ain’t Easy.” While it may not be the best song he ever wrote, it is a ballad that represents this era of The Allman Brothers well.
Enlightened Rogues is an underappreciated album that sometimes flies under the radar. It is an excellent look back at the middle period of the group’s career.
Article first published as Music Review: The Allman Brothers – Enlightened Rogues on Blogcritics.